employ a presentational plot by L. Vosburgh Lyons, in which graphology rather than psychometry is represented as the operative phenomenon.2
The performer holds a small basket (like a simple breadbasket), which contains at least fifty correspondence cards and envelopes. These are not neatly arranged, but lie scattered in the basket. Five felt-tip pens are attached by their clips to the outer rim of the basket.
Five spectators, preferably women, are each asked to remove from the basket a card, a pen and an envelope. (The envelopes are of the self-sealing type, for considerations of
hygiene and convenience.) The performer humorously compares the selections to a lottery, emphasizing that the spectators can remove any card, any envelope and any pen they wish; and he holds the basket in a way that makes it easy for them to do so.
Each of the five spectators is asked to write a few words on her card, then insert the card into the envelope and seal it. Another spectator is recruited to collect the envelopes and bring them to the performer on stage. Once there he is asked to mix them.
The performer now opens one envelope after another, studies the different handwritings and, through his graphological knowledge, dramatically reveals various characteristics about each of the five persons, eventually identifying each individual from her handwriting!
This handling would seem to leave no possibility for identification through secret marks on the cards or envelopes, and has been designed to deceive well-posted magicians as well as the public. The method is uncomplicated and utterly simple: Neither the cards nor the envelopes are prepared— but the pens are.
They look identical, but each has a different color of ink! Certain brands of felt-tip pens can be found whose caps and cartridge tips alone indicate the color of ink they contain. The bodies of the pens are identical. With a black permanent marker, color the caps and cartridge tips to match. There is now only one way to tell the pens apart: by writing with them. Fasten these prepared pens around the mouth of the basket in a known order, such as red, green, blue, purple and black.
As you will quickly understand, this method is suitable only for a large group, as the spectators you use must be widely separated. This prevents the secret of the different colored inks from being accidentally discovered. Of course the spectators can select any pen, since you know the order of the pens and can mentally link the colors with the spectators. Such memory work is not difficult, but if it seems so, you can hold the pens in a known order against the side of the basket, and hand them to the spectators in that order. That may seem a bit bold, but I assure you, no one will think a thing about it.
Of course the cards must not be returned to the spectators afterward. Instead, casually pocket them after you have done each psychometric reading.
Variant presentations are possible using this method. For instance, one can use Gene Gloye's Doodles theme,3 having the spectators draw simple pictures or scribbles on the cards, which you then relate to the proper spectator. You cannot, of course, display the doodles as you analyze them, for reasons of both size and secret. However, you can duplicate them on a large sketch pad as you talk about them.
'Published in Linking Ring, Vol. 36, No. 11, Jan. 1957, p. 76.
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Today I'm going to teach you a fundamental Mentalism technique known as 'cold reading'. Cold reading is a technique employed by mentalists and charlatans and by charlatan I refer to psychics, mediums, fortune tellers or anyone that claims false abilities that is used to give the illusion that the person has some form of super natural power.